Cape tulip - two-leaf (Moraea miniata)

Cape tulips belong to the iris family. All parts of the plant are toxic to livestock.


How does this weed affect you?

Cape tulips are invasive weeds of pastures and cereal crops. They quickly infest pastures, crops, roadsides, native grasslands, bushlands and disturbed areas.


All parts of the plant, fresh and dry, are toxic to grazing livestock. Symptoms of poisoning include loss of appetite, scouring, weakness, blindness, stiffness or paralysis of hind legs and in severe cases death. Animals most at risk of poisoning are stock put into heavily infested pastures, with no previous exposure to the weed.

Animals can learn to avoid the plant by selectively grazing more palatable grasses and herbage. Although this only allows Cape tulip to flourish and eventually dominate the pasture.

Cape tulips are also highly toxic to humans, capable of causing serious illness or death. All parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested, causing acute vomiting and diarrhoea, possibly leading to paralysis. 

What to do if poisoning occurs:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.

What does it look like?

All cape tulip species are similar in appearance. Some can be distinguished by their flowers. The exception to this is one-leaf and two-leaf Cape tulip.

The main differences between one-leaf and two-leaf species are:

  • one-leaf Cape tulip produces 1 leaf and 1–3 corms
  • two-leaf Cape tulip produces 2–3 leaves and numerous cormils (small corms) at the base of the plant and each leaf


  • either 1 or 2–3 leaves (two-leaf Cape tulip) occur per plant
  • flat and ribbed
  • 1–2 cm wide and up to 1 m long, extending above the stem


  • usually orange to salmon pink in colour with a yellow centre
  • 6 petals
  • occur in clusters at the end of branches


  • white
  • 1–2.5 cm in diameter
  • enclosed in a brownish fibrous covering
  • one to three new corms are developed each year above the old corm
  • two-leaf Cape tulip has a hard, black coating around the corm and cormils


  • only present in two-leaf Cape tulip
  • 2–4 mm long
  • brown to grey in colour


  • brown
  • irregular in shape
  • up to 2 mm long
  • up to 150 seeds produced in each fruit capsule


  • cylindrical
  • up to 5 cm long
  • green at first, becoming brown as it ripens
  • splits into 3 parts from the top to release seeds


  • stiff and upright
  • slightly zigzagged
  • branched towards the top where flowers are formed

Where is it found?

Cape tulips are native to South Africa and introduced to Australia in the 1840s. They are now widely distributed throughout temperate Australia. Worldwide there are about 200 Moraea species. Twelve have naturalised in Australia.

Cape tulips occur throughout most of NSW, including the Hunter Valley, Riverina, western slopes, western plains and all coastal regions of NSW.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Cape tulip - two-leaf during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

All Cape tulips are perennial herbs with annual leaves and flowers. The main method of reproduction is from the bulb-like ‘corms’ located at the base of the stem. Corms are the plants food source and can lay dormant in the soil for up to 8 years. Some species will also reproduce by seed.

Corms can be spread by hay, agricultural machinery or earthmoving equipment. Seed is mostly spread through contaminated hay and silage cut from infested paddocks.


Plants do not flower or set seed until 2–3 years of age. Plants spend this time growing and developing their first corms.

Seeds and the corms of mature plants germinate following autumn rain when soil temperatures are still high. Not all corms germinate and up to 60% can stay dormant.

Active plant growth occurs through winter and spring. Shoots and leaves develop during winter, followed by flowering and seed set in early to mid spring.  New corms begin to develop before flowers appear.

Plants die back in late spring and corms remain dormant from November through to April. The cycle starts again following autumn rain.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cape tulips prefer a temperate climate with an annual rainfall of less than 600mm. They thrive in areas of full sun and prefer clay to loam soil types. They tolerate sandy soils and shaded areas, but do not establish well in this situation. Cape tulips readily invade most open space areas such as pastures, native grasslands, open bushlands, roadsides, disturbed sites and dry coastal areas. 


Department of the Environment (2011). Weeds in Australia: Moraea flaccida and Moraea miniata, Australian Government. Available at

Hawkins, C. and Lloyd, S. (2012.) Farmnote 491: Cape tulips, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia.

Hawkins, C., Kruger, E., Peirce, J. and Rayner, B. (2007). Farmnote 213: Cape tulip control in pastures, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia.

Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow JJ (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK.

James, T.A. and Brown, E.A. (2014). Moreae spp., in PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System of The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia. Available at

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.C. (2001). Noxious weeds in Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Scott, J.K. and Morin, L. (2012). Moraea flaccid Sweet – one-leaf Cape tulip and Moraea miniata Andrews – two-leaf Cape tulip. In Biological Control of Weeds in Australia. (Eds M. Julien, R. McFadyen and J. Cullen) pp 398-403, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

More information

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A long term weed management program is essential for control of cpae tulips.

Only a portion of corms and cormils will sprout in any one season. Control of these plants will have no effect on the dormant corms. Ongoing treatment every year will be required to reduce the level of dormant corms.

Early treatment of new infestations and small patches should be a priority. Individual plants can be dug out, making sure to remove the corms. Herbicides often give the best control, but will require continual maintenance and follow-up treatments.

The optimum treatment period for herbicide application is July–September. This is when plants are in their active growth phase and just at flowering, when the corms have nearly exhausted their food reserves. Herbicide treatment of plants, using a foliar application at this stage of growth, and repeated over several seasons will give best results.

Property hygiene practices are important to prevent further spread from infested properties.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

2,4-D LV ester 680g/L (Estercide® Xtra)
Rate: 1.7–3.3 L/ha
Comments: Boom spray. Spray before flowering.
Withholding period: Do not graze or cut for stock food for 7 days after application.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Metsulfuron-methyl 300 g/kg + Aminopyralid 375 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 10 g/ha and always add a wetter 200 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: For pastures only. Apply at bulb exhaustion, usually during July/early August. Repeat treatments may be required. Suitable wetting agents include: Only BS1000 Biodegradable surfactant, Chemwet 1000 Wetting Agent, Uptake Spraying Oil or Pulse Penetrant.
Withholding period: Pastures - Grazing for meat production or cutting for animal feed: Do not graze for 56 days after application. See label for further details
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors) + 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: High/Moderate

Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: 5 g/ha
Comments: Apply at bulb exhaustion, usually during July/early August. Repeat treatments may be required.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All pest plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North West Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. A person should not deal with the plant, where dealings include but are not limited to buying, selling, growing, moving, carrying or releasing the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2024